A Hectic First Day

NESA Seminar at the Department of Defense

In hindsight, last week might’ve been just about the worst possible time to start an internship at the Near East South Asia (NESA) Center.

With two seminars running simultaneously the Center required immediate support from its new interns to ensure the programs ran smoothly and remained on schedule throughout the week. I was assigned to the program, “Iraq: Office of National Security Council Strategic Planning Seminar”. Seminar participants included some of Iraq’s top academic and military professionals, including several of the original authors from Iraq’s 2015 National Security Strategy.

While the seminar was just starting up I, along with several of the other interns, were tasked with completing some of the remaining in-processing duties required to work for the Department of Defense. These duties, which included receiving a badge and temporary access permit, took most of the morning to complete and left us with little time to prepare for the first day of the seminar. By the time we finalized all of our in-processing duties we had less than an hour before the Iraqi delegation was set to arrive.

My day had been so packed, I didn’t even realize I hadn’t eaten—and honestly, I wasn’t complaining.

After returning back upstairs, the interns were led on an in-depth facility tour, giving us the opportunity to meet some of NESA’s other faculty and staff. Interestingly enough, several of the staff members we met actually began their careers at the NESA Center as interns. To me, this ongoing relationship with past interns highlights a history of strong partnership between the Center and its student volunteers. Although I won’t hold my breath on the thoughts of future employment, the relationship proves to me that the Center truly values the work of its interns; in some cases, even enough to hire them as full-time employees.

As I sat in on the first lecture and began to take notes, the significance of the moment really began to hit me. Here I was, first day on the job, sitting in on a lecture with some of Iraq’s most influential government officials and academic scholars. We talked about wide ranging political topics including the U.S. intelligence community, regional security, and ISIS, and it was unbelievable to listen to their unique perspectives and points of view.

Participants at the NESA Seminar.
Participants in the seminar Matthew (top right) helped run.

When I returned home that evening, finally able to catch my breath, I took a minute to sit on the couch to decompress. I opened up my bag and saw my lunch, completely untouched, laying at the bottom. Not only had I missed my  lunch break, I had forgotten to eat lunch altogether. My day had been so packed I didn’t even realize I hadn’t eaten—and honestly, I wasn’t complaining. My first day, however hectic, was unbelievable. I honestly can’t wait to see what the rest of the semester has in store.

Matthew Lawson headshot

Matthew Lawson is a political science major at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. He is currently conducting his TWC Spring Internship at the Near East South Asia (NESA) Center for Strategic Studies, a Department of Defense regional center geared toward promoting international security cooperation through facilitated dialogue and academic expertise.

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